Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kruidnoten - Dutch Spice Nuts

Dutch Kruidnoten are often confused with Pepernoten. Whereas Kruidnoten, which translates to "spice nuts" in English, are crunchy rounded cookies made with the same ingredients as SpeculaasPepernoten, on the other hand,  which translates as "pepper nuts", are softer, light brown cookies made with flour, sugar, anise, cinnamon, cloves and occasionally some honey.

Both Kruidnoten and Pepernoten are eaten at around the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) at the beginning of December. Sometimes, Kruidnoten are called the "small sisters" of Speculaas. You might know Speculaas, the traditional Dutch Sinterklaas treats as windmill cookies, Biscoff cookies or Speculoos (their Flemish name), Kruidnoten as well as Speculaas are both fragrantly spiced with a Speculaas Spice Mix - including ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg, while brown sugar adds a hint of molasses.

The origin of these traditional treats is intricately linked with the history of the Netherlands. The Dutch controlled the spice trade with the East in the 17th century, making the use of spices more accessible to ordinary Dutch people. Spices were still expensive, however, which is why their use was reserved for the holidays. The Sinterklaas tradition sees the strewing of Kruidnoten, Pepernoten, chocolate coins and candy around the room for the children to pick up off the floor on Sinterklaas Eve.

These days, the traditional recipe is still popular, but new variations, such as truffle kruidnoten, chocolate-covered kruidnoten and yoghurt-covered kruidnoten are also available. 

Kruidnoten – Dutch Spice Nuts

Ingredients for the Cookies
(yield: makes approx. 40-50 small  Kruidnoten)
  • 200 grams (1 3/4 cups) self-rising flour 
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) donkerbruine basterdsuiker* (Dutch dark brown sugar), you can also sub with Demerera sugar or Muscovado sugar (unrefined cane sugar)
  • 2 tsps. pure vanilla sugar
  • 100 grams (7 tbsp) unsalted butter 
  • 2-3 tbsp milk (depending on how your dough holds together)
  • 4 tsp Speculaas Spice Mix (speculaaskruiden)**
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • finely grated zest of half an organic (untreated) orange
  • 1 egg white (L), lightly beaten with a fork (for glazing the unbaked cookies)

Preparation of the Cookies
  1. Mix together all the ingredients (except the egg white) in a large bowl and knead (you could use a mixer with a dough hook attachment). 
  2. You should be able to shape the dough into a ball without it sticking to your hands. 
  3. Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and set aside for a good hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 175° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit).
  5. Line two cookies sheets with baking parchment.
  6. Wet your hands and roll little balls of dough.
  7. Place dough balls on the prepared baking sheet. 
  8. Using your thumb, gently press down on each cookie to flatten slightly. 
  9. Brush each cookie with some of the egg white.egg white.
  10. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies, or until the cookies puff up and turn golden brown.
  11. Transfer to cooling racks and allow to cool.
Basterdsuiker* is a typical Dutch product. There are three varieties, white, brown and dark brown, called witte basterdsuiker, lichte basterdsuiker and donkerbruine basterdsuiker. The sugar is widely available from Dutch supermarkets and some Dutch groceries on the internet.

You can order ready-made Speculaas Spice Mix (known as Speculaaskruiden) online but you can also make your own spice mix, which really gives you the chance to use the freshest ground spices that you can get your hands on, making for even better tasting cookies, of course.

(Speculaas Spice Mix)

Ingredients for the Speculaas Spice Mix
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1/3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/5 tsp ground white pepper (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp ground cardamom (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp ground coriander seeds (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp ground anise seeds (a pinch)
  • 1/5 tsp grated nutmeg (a pinch)
  • NOTE: If you only have whole spices at home, you can grind the spices yourself using a coffee grinder, or use a food processor and a fine sieve.

  1. Carefully measure out spices.
  2. Mix all spices well.
  3. Scoop the mix into a spice jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Label the jar.
  5. And use for baking Christmas cookies.
  6. Discard any leftovers after four months and make a new spice mix.

Do try these Speculaas spiced, gingerbread-style, crunchy cookies, a true original Sinterklaas confection. This homemade version is so much better than what you can buy in a shop, especially if you take the time to blend your own spice mix, which is rather easy and really makes these treats special.

By the way, Kruidnoten make a fabulous gift. Simply wrap up in some cellophane, tie with a pretty ribbon and decorate with some pretty handcrafted angels like the ones in the pictures above!


  1. So pretty! and I just love your angel plate.

    1. Barbara, ganz lieben Dank - das ist mein absoluter Lieblingsteller, schön und alt und so nett weihnachtlich!
      Lieben Dank für deinen Kommentar, und liebe Grüsse in die Provence,

  2. Love these cookies. Thanks for posting the recipe for the spice mix. By the way, I love your plate.

    1. Gerldine, thank you very much - this is my favorite vintage cookie plate these days - I love serving freshly baked cookies on this plate! You and your family would love to nibble on them with a cuppa in the afternoon!

  3. Liebe Andrea, ich habe zwar schon das Plaetzchensortiment hier in Glaesern in der Kueche stehen, aber die Kruidnoten sollte ich vielleicht doch noch schnell backen, fuer unseren Besuch aus NL zu Weihnachten :-) Die Engelchen sind allerliebst!!!! Überhaupt gefaellt mir immer wieder nicht nur die Köstlichkeit, sondern auch die Deko in den Fotos. Ich habe in diesem Jahr zum ersten Mal Spekulatius gebacken und alte Modeln benutzt. Die Gewuerzmischung ist ähnlich gewesen. Einen ganz lieben Gruss aus Frederick, wo es stürmt und schneit...

    1. Liebe Wally, die Kruidnoten sind ein Gedicht - sie riechen unglaublich weihnachtlich während des Backens und sie sind relativ schnell gemacht, sogar die Kinder haben da etwas mitgeholfen - sie schmecken lecker, halten sich gut, lassen sich toll verschenken - all you want in a cookie recipe and more kann ich da nur sagen...und ich habe ja bekanntermaßen auch ein ganz besonderes Faible für niederländisches und belgisches Gebäck!
      Lieben Dank für deinen tollen Kommentar und ganz herzliche Grüsse aus dem verregneten Bonn,
      Andrea - heute gehts an die Lebkuchen!

  4. Andrea, the sound of the Speculaas Spice Mix is just amazing...and I can only imagine how these cookies must taste...I would love to have a couple of this cookies with a cup of tea...
    Hope you are enjoying your week :)

    1. Juliana, the Speculaas Spice Mix is rather versatile and can be used in many a cookie recipe - these cookies smell out of this world delicious while baking, you would love them!
      Thank you for the kind comment,

  5. I absolutely love a good spice cookie and these look wonderful. I have a recipe to try this year in my copy of The German Cookbook that is somewhat similar. These are a terrific cookie for the holidays!

    1. Amy, you love these little no-fuss Dutch spice cookies - interesting that they would apperar in "The German Cookbook" - what you refer to are probably what we call "Pfeffernüsse" instead - you could take a look here if you want and compare:
      Thank you for stopping by,
      P.S.: I am curious, which cookbook are you referring to, the one from Mimi Sheraton...let me know if you get a chance

  6. Andrea, these look lovely with an interesting history. Among Dutch cookies I am only familiar with the Stroopwafel, as one of the girls on Alex's college field hockey team is from the Netherlands and her parents graced the tailgate table with boxes of these upon their annual visits. I very much like spice cookies and should like to give these a try. My birthday is on St. Nicholas Day and when I was younger I would often give little candies and fruit gifts with a special little note to thank others for what they meant in my life, and I did enjoy that special little tradition.

    1. Peggy, dear friend, the tradition that you are referring to is the one we treasure on Saint Nicolas´ Day, Decemebr 6th, which, I know is also your birthday. Little sweets and gifts are distributed to the children. The Dutch have a very similar tradition on Sinterklaas Eve, December 5th - and these Kruidnoten play an important part in this tradition - the gifts we share are meant to remind the donees to be kind and generous to their fellow human beings just like Saint Nicolas was in his lifetime - a beautiful tradition if you ask me...
      Thank you for your kind comment,

  7. Very Christmassy, Andrea! I think I will be adding these to my homemade foodie gifts (although I'll probably eat them all myself…) Thanks for including the spice mix.

    1. Hester, so nice to hear from you - these cookies are very Christmassy indeed - nothing more seasonal than Dutch Kruidnoten or German Pfeffernüsse. Both delicious and similar but different and both no-fuss recipes - last year I went for the Pfeffernüsse,
      this year it was the Kruidnoten.
      Happy Holidays, dear friend!

  8. Andrea, that spice mix is WILD!
    I love it. Thanks for giving us the recipe for the mix, too.
    I will have to make a batch of these this w/end.
    Hope you're keeping warm. xoxo

    1. Colette, not that cold in these parts, so, no trouble with staying warm - but who knows...the Speculaas Spice Mix can come in very handy when making not only these Dutch Kruidnoten but also the traditional Speculaas and many other seasonal baked goods.
      If indeed you get a chance to bake these traditional treats, let me know wether you enjoyed them.
      Take care and Happy Holidays,

  9. I'm so happy that you give us the recipes for the spice mixes that you use in your recipes…that is so helpful. Your cookies bring back nice memories of our trips to Germany at Christmastime and the wonderful little cookies we enjoyed. These or your Pfeffernüsse cookies must have been some of what we had during our stay there.

    1. Karen, what a wonderful comment - it is absolutely fabulous to hear that these cookie recipes of mine bring back such lovely memories to your mind - memories of wonderful sweet treats around Christmas time and travels to beautiful places are always priceless.
      I certainly appreciate all your kind and thoughtful comments, dear friend!

  10. First, I do love all the history you give us with your recipes - these sound wonderful, and I really like crunchy cookies sometimes more than soft ones. And I just happen to have some wonderful Speculaaskruiden left to make these during the holidays. Liebe Grüße! David